Batman at the Boxoffice

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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Bob Furmanek
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Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Bob Furmanek »

I'm posting this information with a bit of trepidation. I shared it last night on the Batman 1966 Facebook page and somebody got very upset and said it was "BS."

She cited some wrong data on IMDB and the Eisner book in order to support her belief that the film was a big hit in 1966. I pointed out that information on IMDB is submitted by individuals and without citing their sources, should not be taken as gospel. In fact, I've had difficulty updating information on there for a film that we own! (They have an actress playing the part of a male doctor and won't correct it.) When I included an actual 1968 quote from William Dozier to the AP syndicated columnist Bob Thomas, she dismissed it as "hearsay." The thread was eventually deleted.

I submit the following with the hope that you will consider the documented sources.

While Bat-merchandise was selling at a fever pitch throughout the summer of 1966, audiences were cooling to the Caped Crusader. In a syndicated August 11, 1966 Associated Press article, Cynthia Lowry wrote: “The series, which caused more talk than any other recent TV product, suffered a sharp decline in the early summer ratings. It dropped out of the list of top-rated shows, in fact. There is always some careful explanation when a show takes a statistical nose-dive, and the one for this is that the onset of daylight saving time through much of the country kept many youngsters out-of-doors and away from their sets. And, of course, there is always a chance with Batman on reruns, the small fry were catching up on the episodes of Daniel Boone, The Munsters and Lost in Space they missed earlier."

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The BATMAN feature premiered in Texas on July 30, 1966 and opened nationwide in August. According to Boxoffice magazine, out of twenty key cities, the movie only performed above average in Buffalo, Cincinnati, Portland and San Francisco. With a 100% rating considered normal, the movie came in at 122%. That wasn’t bad but the boxoffice performance was far less than anticipated and the movie did not make a profit.

20th Century Fox corporate records show a final budget of $1,540,000. According to "Big Rental Pictures of 1966" in the January 4, 1967 edition of Variety, BATMAN ranked at #59 for the year with total domestic U.S./Canada rentals to date of $1,700,000.

In William Dozier’s February 3, 1968 interview with Associated Press writer Bob Thomas, he said the feature was not a success. “It’s the old story of trying to sell the public something that is available free at home.” Dozier said the film barely broke even.

Word got around among theater owners throughout the country. In the October 24 Boxoffice column “The Exhibitor has his Say about Pictures,” one exhibitor wrote: “Don’t play it. Please! All reports said it was poor but I didn’t believe them. Something wrong with their situations, I thought. Ours will do well. I was wrong! Lowest Wednesday through Saturday of the summer.”

In conclusion; in doing this research and sharing the information, I'm not trying to upset any fans. I'm simply trying to set the record straight and show that while Batman was a phenomenon to be sure, it's star burnt brightly for only a very short period of time. That's not to diminish its impact in any way and I hope that you understand.

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epaddon
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by epaddon »

Yeah, breaking even is not a disaster but not a hit. It again has me wondering if it was a bad idea to have done the film to begin with.

And I must also echo your point about imdb. A LOT of wrong info got stuck on imdb years earlier by people who don't know any better and see some performer who has a superficial resemblance to someone they know in a bit part, and then give that person a "credit" that isn't theirs. Case in point is how Julie Gregg, Finella in the S1 finale, is said on imdb to have appeared uncredited in the Preminger Mr. Freeze episode as "Miss Canary Islands." She does not and the resemblance isn't even close. However, what was missed for a number of years and which someone else here (I apologize for forgetting who it was) finally pointed out is that she *is* in the movie as the French nightclub singer wearing the same gown from the tag scene of her S1 episode.

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Mark Racop
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Mark Racop »

Bob, if someone can't accept the truth (even if it's painful), the problem lies in their hands--not in yours as the messenger.

On to the question posed by epaddon: "It again has me wondering if it was a bad idea to have done the film to begin with."

Wasn't the point of making the movie to sell the series overseas, to prime audiences for the show? (Or is this just another myth for Bob to perfectly puncture with his pontifications and hard data?)

Keep up the great work, Bob!

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High C
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by High C »

Mark Racop wrote:Bob, if someone can't accept the truth (even if it's painful), the problem lies in their hands--not in yours as the messenger.

On to the question posed by epaddon: "It again has me wondering if it was a bad idea to have done the film to begin with."

Wasn't the point of making the movie to sell the series overseas, to prime audiences for the show? (Or is this just another myth for Bob to perfectly puncture with his pontifications and hard data?)

Keep up the great work, Bob!
Well, yeah, supposedly the movie was supposed to predate the series in the US, too.

Which leads me to wonder--would it have been more successful financially if it had been an introduction to the show?

Then there is the sense of, hey, we're getting something for free now once the actual series premieres on TV. That sense is gone when it already has been free and now you want people to pay after season 1.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

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epaddon
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by epaddon »

There was certainly by 1966 a lot of precedence for theatrical versions of TV shows with episodes strung together for foreign release only. "Man From UNCLE" did this and would frequently spice up things by having the actresses do scenes in a state of undress that they did not do in the original episode in the US airing (one MFU film even had Yvonne appearing in new scenes including one in a bikini under the sunlamp).

But the difference with "Batman" of course is that the film was intended for the US audience just as much to show off the new hardware and show things they couldn't do on TV with four villains at once etc. This was really unprecedented because I know of only one other TV series that had a theatrical film version in the US in regular release while the TV show was still on, and that's the late 50s cop show "The Lineup." But even that really doesn't count because the TV cast of "The Lineup" barely appear in the film and the film is more about the more violent, evil villains created for the film. So, "Batman" was trying to do something that really had never been done before by being a series first, then have a movie and the series keeps going.

The movie may also have had the unintended effect of calling attention to the fact that the TV series could never duplicate anything this spectacular and thus make it seem less exciting and more "ordinary" by contrast to audiences who had tuned in at first. I'm never going to doubt that the movie is as a movie and a Batman story, fun and entertaining, but looking back was it a good idea for the long-term health of the series? Sadly, it probably wasn't.

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Bob Furmanek »

Mark Racop wrote:Bob, if someone can't accept the truth (even if it's painful), the problem lies in their hands--not in yours as the messenger.

On to the question posed by epaddon: "It again has me wondering if it was a bad idea to have done the film to begin with."

Wasn't the point of making the movie to sell the series overseas, to prime audiences for the show? (Or is this just another myth for Bob to perfectly puncture with his pontifications and hard data?)

Keep up the great work, Bob!
Thank you very much, Mark. I have to admit, the response was a bit discouraging and when the thread and information was deleted - even though I had remained civil - I was reminded of the saying:

When the legend becomes fact - print the legend.


It appears there is some undying devotion to the Eisner book but I"m getting the impression he did not fact-check and based a lot of his data on interviews with the cast and crew. As we know, memories and recollections can become cloudy. Isn't Burt now repeating the Makenna's Gold myth for the reason Julie didn't do the feature?

I always believe in doing research with primary source materials.

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Bob Furmanek »

As far as the feature preceding the series, the first mention of Batman in Variety is:

Greenway's 'Batman' To Air Over ABC-TV

Published Date: August 25th, 1965

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High C
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by High C »

Bob Furmanek wrote:As far as the feature preceding the series, the first mention of Batman in Variety is:

Greenway's 'Batman' To Air Over ABC-TV

Published Date: August 25th, 1965
Wow, there you go. So apparently they were looking at it as a mid-season replacement before the movie. Good research, again, Bob!
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

Gleeps, it's Batman
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Gleeps, it's Batman »

Great work, Bob! Thanks for all of your hard work in researching the truth. And I agree with Mark Racop: "if someone can't accept the truth (even if it's painful), the problem lies in their hands--not in yours as the messenger."
Bob Furmanek wrote: Isn't Burt now repeating the Makenna's Gold myth for the reason Julie didn't do the feature?
Speaking of Burt and Julie, I'd like to know the truth behind the myth of Burt being hung over live tigers in Better Luck Next Time. I think even Adam said in his book that that happened, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that Julie said it was bull. I'm inclined to think that they wouldn't really hang an actor over live tigers and entice them by dangling raw meat above Burt.

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Bob Furmanek »

Thanks, here is some more documentation.

The first mention of a sale in the UK on February 14, 1966:
'Batman' Series Sold In Britain
First foreign sale of 20th-Pox's "Batman" vidpix series, reports sales v.n. Alan Silverbach, is to ABC-TV Ltd., London. Deal covers Great Britain. "Batman" will be televised twice-weekly in London.

The first mention of the feature is on February 24:
20th-Dozier Mull 'Batman' Feature production.


The feature is confirmed on March 10:
Stars' Pay Up For Batman Feature
Feature film version of 20th-Fox TV's "Batman" has been firmed up by the studio and Green-way prexy William Dozier, with Adam West and Burt Ward of the ABC-TV series to star in the feature. Negotiations were marked by West and Ward's hefty coin demands.

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Bob Furmanek »

I don't have the full document but this internal memo from March 3, 1966 is quite interesting:
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March 3.JPG

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High C
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by High C »

Bob Furmanek wrote:I don't have the full document but this internal memo from March 3, 1966 is quite interesting:
Wow. Just wow.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Bob Furmanek »

Gleeps, it's Batman wrote:Great work, Bob! Thanks for all of your hard work in researching the truth. And I agree with Mark Racop: "if someone can't accept the truth (even if it's painful), the problem lies in their hands--not in yours as the messenger."
Bob Furmanek wrote: Isn't Burt now repeating the Makenna's Gold myth for the reason Julie didn't do the feature?
Speaking of Burt and Julie, I'd like to know the truth behind the myth of Burt being hung over live tigers in Better Luck Next Time. I think even Adam said in his book that that happened, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that Julie said it was bull. I'm inclined to think that they wouldn't really hang an actor over live tigers and entice them by dangling raw meat above Burt.
Thank you very much!

This 3-D image from the View-Master reel appears to reveal the scene is rear-screen projection.

Think about it logically: would the studio risk the co-star of their hot new series?
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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Bob Furmanek »

High C wrote:
Bob Furmanek wrote:I don't have the full document but this internal memo from March 3, 1966 is quite interesting:
Wow. Just wow.
Based on his original contract, Adam was not making a lot of money on the show. As an inexperienced actor, I'm sure Burt got even less.

When Dozier began contemplating a feature in late February, the show was very hot and doing exceptionally well in the ratings. I don't blame Adam and Burt for holding out for big bucks. But the producers played hardball.
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Gleeps, it's Batman
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Re: Batman at the Boxoffice

Post by Gleeps, it's Batman »

Bob Furmanek wrote:
This 3-D image from the View-Master reel appears to reveal the scene is rear-screen projection.

Think about it logically: would the studio risk the co-star of their hot new series?
Exactly, which is why I said I was inclined to believe they wouldn't really do that. Which begs the question why have Adam and Burt given this tale life over the years?
Bob Furmanek wrote:
Based on his original contract, Adam was not making a lot of money on the show. As an inexperienced actor, I'm sure Burt got even less.

When Dozier began contemplating a feature in late February, the show was very hot and doing exceptionally well in the ratings. I don't blame Adam and Burt for holding out for big bucks. But the producers played hardball.
That's a very interesting document you just posted. Thanks Bob! I think it answers the question that I had elsewhere on the board, about when it went from an hour concept to two half hour shows. As far as salaries, this old post shows them as follows:

Batman $4000.00 per two part show ($2000.00 per half hour)
Robin $700.00 per two part show ($350.00 per half hour)
Alfred $1000.00 per two part show ($500.00 per half hour)
Gordon $900.00 per two part show ($450.00 per half hour)
O’Hara $900.00 per two part show ($450.00 per half hour)
Harriet $1000.00 per two part show ($500.00 per half hour)
Guest Villain $2500.00 per two part show (1250.00 per half hour)

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